The evidence base
Sexual exploitation can have a lasting impact on young people’s lives (PACE, 2013; Berelowitz et al, 2012). But limited understanding of what sexual exploitation is, or how to tackle it, means children continue to be at risk (Berelowitz et al, 2015).
Developing a trusting relationship
Research shows that when children who have experienced sexual abuse are able to build a trusting relationship with a professional, they are more likely to:
- engage with a service
- recognise that they have been abused
- and disclose the abuse to a professional
Developing a trusting relationship with an adult has been identified as important for children even if they may not be ready for risk-focused support (Hickle and Hallett, 2016).
Children need to know that the professionals around them have ‘stickability’ – they won’t be discouraged by challenging behaviour; they are on the child’s side and can be trusted (Jago, 2011). This can require practitioners to spend time with children in a more informal and relaxed setting, without always focusing on exploitation (Lefevre et al, 2017).
Research shows that children and young people want to be partners in their protection and recovery plan. Without consultation, they can end up feeling powerless and hopeless (Berelowitz et al, 2013).
Listening to young people
We make sure that young people’s views are sought, explored and taken into consideration at every stage of Protect and Respect.
If children feel that their rights and opinions are respected and they can participate in their support plans, they are also more likely to develop a trusting relationship with their practitioner. A key aspect of Protect and Respect’s approach is the ability of practitioners to persist in encouraging the participation and engagement of children.
We’ve developed the Protect and Respect service following the findings identified in our initial evaluation. We’ve created a simpler intervention which builds on what we know works well and adapted the service to move away from approaches with little or no evidence.